As the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, projects are being renewed, rebid, and restarted. New work is being opened and owners are making contracts for the future. Construction is, by most measures, regaining lost opportunities and beginning to look like it was in 2019, pre-pandemic.
January 2022 saw total construction starts increased by 4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $923.4 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network. Nonresidential building starts increased 4%, and nonbuilding starts rose 18%. The only major construction segment to decrease was residential which saw starts fall 1%.
In nonbuilding construction, highway and bridge starts rose 33%, and utility/gas plant starts more than doubled. However, environmental public works starts lost 9%, and miscellaneous nonbuilding starts fell 5%. The largest nonbuilding projects to break ground in January were the $1.6 billion Amtrak Gateway Portal Bridge Enhancement project in Secaucus, N.J. and the $477 million U.S. 183 North mobility corridor in Austin, Texas.
The commercial sector moved 8% higher due to an increase in retail, office, and warehouse starts. Institutional building starts gained 10% on gains in healthcare, transportation, and recreation starts. Manufacturing starts fell 42%. The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in Januarywere the $1.5 billion JFK Terminal 4 expansion in Queens, NY and the $647 million Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Brunswick, N.J.
Single family starts moved 2% higher, but multifamily starts fell 10%. For the 12 months ending January 2022, residential starts improved 19% from the 12 months ending January 2021. Single family starts were 2% lower, while multifamily starts were 26% stronger on a 12-month rolling sum basis. The largest multifamily structures to break ground in Januarywere the $370 million Seattle House mixed-use building in Seattle, Wash. and the $300 million Broad & Washington mixed-use building in Philadelphia, Penn.
Dodge Construction Network also released a report, entitled Connected Construction: The Owners’ Perspective, that was done with Trimble. It looked at the benefits of digital workflows based on survey data from architects, engineers, contractors, and owners. The results showed that owners are, perhaps, the most critical driving force behind a increase in digitalization.
The report underlines the degree to which owners have already embraced digital workflows for multiple design and construction processes and suggests that owners’ influence will drive greater use of these tools across the industry. An owner’s design and construction process requires data to be shared across the project lifecycle with internal stakeholders, numerous external project teams, and supply chain participants.
Traditionally, this multi-party data sharing has been inefficient, with individual parties either using their own software systems or relying on manual rekeying of data into spreadsheets and other document-based formats. This makes it difficult for stakeholders to access reliable information about the status of a given project and even more difficult to improve project performance across portfolios through analysis of accurate and complete historical data.
The study shows that owners are already strong adopters of digital methods within their own organizations. In turn, they recognize the need for increased transparency and faster information delivery by their construction partners, such as contractors, engineers, and architects. With the expectation of increased activity driven by the recent Infrastructure bill, digital workflows and connected teams will be crucial in meeting ambitious project goals.
Over half (54%) of owners have either integrated software solutions or are using a single, connected construction management solution. Designers and contractors significantly lag in this area, meaning owners are more likely to be able to conduct digital workflows effectively. For example, 59% of owners report frequent breakdowns in communication between themselves and other project team members. Less than half (45%) report that they are satisfied with their connectivity with those external companies.
Because they are users of digital workflow technology, that experience will help drive further engagement. ABout66% of owners using digital workflows report that they frequently result in better-informed decision-making on their projects. Fortunately, this is also the top potential benefit that small- to mid-size companies report would be likely to drive them to increase their use of digital workflows.
The findings reveal why owners using digital workflows are able to make better informed decisions: they are far more likely to be able to trace the root causes of delays and errors on their projects back to specific activities than those that do not use digital workflows.
Another60% of owners report that they have digital workflows for at least half of their project data between departments within their organization. However, only 28% report a similar level of digital data exchange with external companies. This experience with internal digital workflows has already helped drive their appreciation of value of them and can provide valuable experience for helping them transform traditional processes into digital workflows in the future.
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